Government plans to penalise illegal entry are impracticable

24 September 2011

Government plans to penalise illegal entry are impracticable

Immigration and Asylum Minister Gerd Leers’ plans to lock up undocumented immigrants is in conflict with EU rules. This is clear from answers delivered today by the European Commission to questions put by Dutch MEPs from the SP, Green Left, Christian Union, Labour and the centrist D66. According to the rules laid out in what is known as the Returns Directive, as well as a recent ruling from the European Court of Justice, member states may not introduce any legislation limiting the freedom of undocumented migrants simply because they are in the country illegally. This demonstrates that the government’s plans to make unauthorised presence a punishable offence are impracticable.

Commenting on the Commission’s answers, SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong said: "Making unauthorised residence a punishable offence solves nothing, but would instead lead to major problems. You will be pushing undocumented immigrants into criminality if they have nowhere to turn for help. They will also be afraid of reporting people smugglers, for instance.”

The cabinet wants undocumented entry and residence to be punishable by a custodial sentence or a maximum fine of €3800. Failure to pay the fine would mean imprisonment. In most cases an undocumented migrant would be unable to pay such a fine. Putting him or her into prison, simply on the grounds of their unauthorised presence, would be in conflict with European legislation, as the European Commission has now once more confirmed.

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